Skills Day Challenge



Here Allan Durning, President of the Institute of Builders’ Merchants (IoBM), gives an exclusive report on the events of this year’s Practical Building Skills Challenge.

Now in its fifth year, the 2016 Practical Building Skills Challenge took place on Wednesday 17th February at Leeds College of Building (LCB) in conjunction with the Builders Merchant Federation (BMF). With 10 teams from both independent and national merchant chains taking part, this year’s event was the biggest and busiest to date. Also supported by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), it was a pleasure to welcome Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, to present the prizes to the winners.

Each of the teams were pitted against the clock and each other to complete a number of building tasks across four different disciplines: block paving, constructing a stud wall, tiling and bricklaying. Their efforts were then judged by the college’s teaching staff and the winners announced at the end of the day. The entire challenge was filmed and we will be publishing a short summary video very soon, so keep an eye out on our website and social media channels.

Mark Terry, Governor of the IoBM and project leader of the Skills Challenge, commented: “We are all aware of the major skills shortage in this country and that more has to be done to develop the existing workforce and encourage new blood into the construction industry. For this reason, we set up the Skills Challenge to invest in merchant professionals as well as build relationships between the trade and local colleges.”

Our relationship with LCB is very strong and the staff have been extremely helpful and generous hosts for the event. Everyone who attended this year has commented on how knowledgeable the staff were and I would like to publicly thank the college for its hospitality.

It is with great pleasure that I can share that the winner of the 2016 Skills Challenge is Jewson’s Hull branch, showing a great level of competency in all of the application areas. Each of the winning team members received a trophy and a £75 voucher. Very close runners up this year were the team from Hevey Building Supplies, each of whom also received a trophy and a £50 voucher. In addition, everyone who participated received a free year’s membership to the IoBM. A special thanks must go to Steve Turner and the Worshipful Company of Builders’ Merchants (WCoBM), who generously donated the prizes.

The Skills Challenge has been designed to be both enjoyable and beneficial to everyone who enters. Offering merchant staff the chance to get hands on with some of the most common products they sell, the Skills Challenge is a great way to build confidence and product knowledge. It is also a fantastic day of team building, promoting good communication skills and practical initiative. 

Each year we see more and more merchants competing in the challenge and our hope is that, with the help of our partners, we can roll out this initiative nationally through a series of regional events.

Here’s a summary video of the 2016 event:



The Practical Building Skills Challenge in conjunction with the Builders Merchant Federation (BMF) is all set to take place on Wednesday 17th February at Leeds Technical College. With new support from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), this year’s skills challenge will be our busiest and most successful challenge to date.

The way it will work is that 10 teams of four, from merchants across the country, will compete in a series of challenges, testing their joinery, block paving, plastering, brickwork and tiling skills. Not only is the event a fun day out for all who attend but it is also a great way for merchant staff to get a taste of some of the main building disciplines that will underpin their product and practical knowledge.

Everyone who enters the challenge will receive a year’s free membership to the Institute while first and second place will be awarded special prizes. With nine of the 10 places already booked, merchants will have to be quick if they are to secure the final space – to enter a team or to find out more information please contact Mark Terry on 07966 152176 or email

Check out this video from last year’s challenge:

Practical Building Skills Challenge